Many of my landscape images involve a fair degree of planning and careful compositional consideration. Sometimes it’s just as absorbing and in many ways liberating to just grab a simple camera and lens combination and go for a wander. In this instance it was my Fujifilm X-T2 and the jack of all trades 18-135mm, my default family camera. Having visited Cwmorthin Quarry previously I was keen to take the family to explore this fascinating landscape and it’s industrial archeology. Needless to say that the challenge is to keep moving and not become too much of a bore to your nearest and dearest which does add to the urgency and spontaneity of the image making.
I had a bit of a plan in that I had loaded the GPS with geocaches and was sure that it would provide the perfect distraction whilst I set about wielding my X-T2, no one would suspect my real intentions. Of course I was soon rumbled but managed to keep everyone reasonably entertained whilst capturing some worthwhile images.
I feel the advent of mirrorless equipment does make such forays much easier and more enjoyable if only because of the friendlier weight.
The location itself is a landscape photographers dream and somewhere I can see myself returning to many times. There is a wonderful sense of dereliction and reclamation as nature gradually claws back the valley from it’s industrial past.
Slate and drystone walls abound as do remnants of dwellings and mining buildings and the images here are just a small selection of what I captured in the few hours we visited. There is a wonderful atmosphere to the place, a palpable sense of a long history and it’s hard not to reflect on the lives that have gone before and the many hundreds of hands that have toiled to shape the landscape into what it is today.
I wondered what the past inhabitants would make of things today. A working class man like myself passing through as part of a leisure activity with his family. My Fuji camera would be a thing of science fiction I’m sure the like of which even H G Wells himself could not have imagined.
Of the camera itself I have nothing but praise. Not only has it enabled me to be more surreptitious on my family outings but it is capable of producing images more than worthy of the family album. I would happily use it for my “serious”landscape work and indeed have already started to do so.
Although I have generally had a love/hate relationship with social media I feel that ultimately it has many more positives than negatives. Without it this group would not exist as most of us would never have met and at this point, I’m sure we are all the richer for it. As much as I enjoy admiring and contemplating the work of other photographers, you can’t beat a bit of face to face discussion. This is one of the main motivations for forming the group and as well as other advantages, not least the shared cost of our previously mentioned exhibition.
That then brings me to my point in that although social media works for many people, it can sometimes leave you wanting once the novelty of a wider audience has been achieved. Perhaps even more so with the proliferation of high quality images now posted and the popularity of landscape and nature photography. I in no way mean this in a negative sense, as I’m generally very much inspired by the work I see, however the snippets of thought that accompany the images can leave me with many unanswered questions. With the group I now have a slightly louder voice and other photographers to share my thoughts, images and highs and lows with (although they may not always agree). As we know photography is very much a cerebral and emotive pastime (mostly) and it is enlightening and encouraging to share ideas, opinions and work. Although we only formed the group about six months ago I feel we are heading in a good direction intellectually and creatively whilst still maintaining our individuality.
I also find it both stimulating and challenging to share time with photographers who work in other areas to me, especially wildlife. This is helping me translate my love of the natural world into photographic aspirations as well as broadening my knowledge and appreciation.
We meet once a month and during the winter months this has very much become a forum for discussions ranging from our own work to that of others outside the group and dare I say it, gear! The lighter evenings bring trips out, followed by a pint and a bit of banter for those of us who dare to offer a a little camera LCD preview of our labours. Both the images below were captured on such evenings last summer, something we all look forward to once more daylight hours are with us and we are once again released from the dark clutches of winter. I have little doubt that as time goes on we will share trips to exhibitions, days out and maybe even share accommodation and the expense on a foray further afield.
There is no doubt that we are all very different people and if it wasn’t for our collective passion for and appreciation of photography it’s likely our paths would not have crossed and friendships would not have been forged. There is no competition, no egos and there is no hierarchy, we share the group as equals eager to learn from each other and share our experiences and personal successes as well as as the odd failure. Photography is indeed a universal language and one that possibly speaks louder than the written word. Although that is a discussion for another day perhaps.
I’ve never been one for New Years resolutions but have to admit that this time of year offers the opportunity to take stock and for renewed vigour of past endeavours. For some time I have been playing with various photographic projects and with the recent formation of the group and the prospect of an exhibition later in the year I find my thoughts returning to unfinished work. It would seem to be the perfect vehicle to motivate myself and to a large degree this has been the case. Projects can obviously be separate entities but in this case I find that they are beginning to merge to one end, that being printed works to be hung on a gallery wall. This also brings the added bonus in that, hopefully, I won’t be frantically chasing around later in the year with nothing to exhibit.
One of my projects revolves around a local common, somewhere close to home that I can visit without always committing too much time but equally somewhere that inspires me to create. I find myself visiting often and in all weather to ensure a full body of work and to ensure I can give a clear representation of the changes through a calendar year, as well as conveying some of my own feeling for the place.
Although this image is certainly one of my favourites of the last few months I don’t necessarily see it as representative of the finished work, I would like that to feature quiet images too. I was there only yesterday morning and came home with a couple of images that I quite enjoy but which certainly won’t have mass appeal. Very different from the drama of the first image but still very relevant to what I would like to convey.
However this is yet another advantage of a project. So often images have to stand up to scrutiny in their own right but as a wider body of work a more contemplative image can find it’s place. Whether either of these images make it to print remains to be seen but both have given me a great deal of pleasure in the making.
As the year progresses and my mind turns to what to include and how I’m going to present them I shall share my thoughts with you again. So far I am confident that I have ended each month with an image or two that I would like to use irrespective of how they may be received. Mind you I would like to think that the best is yet to come, even if not this year.
So as you start the New year I wold urge you to consider a photographic project or two. If, unlike many of those resolutions, you stick with them I can pretty well guarantee that you will create something that you will most likely find very fulfilling. If, like me, you choose a small area of your local patch you will also find that familiarity often brings it’s own rewards. As the seasons unfold and you learn to see the less obvious it can be very surprising what a visit can reveal, inwardly as well as outwardly .